In our last CMC the focus was on how Jesus grew in favor with God. We will now ponder the remaining thought: What does it mean to grow in favor with man? In reality, it is very easy to do things that will help us find favor with man. The deeper question is what are our motives for desiring man’s favor? Clearly, we teach our children values such as respect for elders and authority but how do we make sure that the respect they show comes from a right heart? All the right things in the world done with wrong motive do not make them right.
One principle we learn from GFI is to be a student of our children and learn to discern their hearts by looking at the clarity of their eyes. Luke 11:34 says, “Your eyes are the lamp of the body. When your eye is healthy your whole body is full of light, when it is unhealthy it is full of darkness.”
What is the importance of “clear eyes?” When your child’s eyes are clear and full of light, they are free of defiance, challenge and guilt. Discuss this with your older children who can understand what this looks like, feels like and sounds like. For younger children, use a lamp to light up a room as an illustration. Show them the difference between brightness levels in a 3-way bulb, or cover a lamp with a blanket to help them equate an “unhappy heart” to a dim or cloudy light. As a parent, it is our job to try and teach our children that as they grow in favor with man that they should be doing so to the honor and glory of God. We need to pray for wisdom to be able to discern their heart’s desire. Is it for the sake of looking good or gaining a good reputation and the praise of man or is it because they want to “do it all for the glory of God?” 1 Cor 10:31.
Sometimes discerning motive is tricky because as our children grow in favor with man there will undoubtedly be positive outcomes including earthly praise. These things should be the result of doing what is right and having the courage to take a stand but they should not be the motive behind doing what is right. If doing right for the sake of man’s favor becomes our goal, then sadly we have made an idol out of good works and the benefits derived from them. Using the current vernacular of being “transparent,” we all can easily fall into the trap of loving the praise of men — even the well-deserved and genuine praise such as an “Atta-boy!” from a teacher or a boss, or those admiring glances when our children show first-level initiative in front of a guest. But when our motives, or our children’s motives, involve receiving the praise of men we are treading into precarious waters indeed. How do we study our children so that as they grow in favor with man they are doing so to the honor and glory of God?
Patricia Lentz shares:
When I was expecting my 5th child, I remember calling a live radio program in order to speak to the Ezzos about my one of my kids who pretty consistently was giving us a run for our money. While he was a very generous kid, he was also our ridge runner and overtly sinful. As parents, we never had to wonder about the motive of his heart or whether his eyes were clear or not. With him either they were or they were not. Now his brother was another story. He was our covert sinner and would do a lot of good, much like the son who said, “Sure Dad, I will go and do,” and then would find a bigger, better way, or reason why not to do something. In addition he was very stubborn. While in many ways it was very easy to parent (correct and direct) the first son, it was far more difficult to navigate discipline and wait out the other’s stubbornness. Somewhere along the line he learned that if Mom and Dad did not use the exact words to ask about his exact infraction then he was not found out and therefore not guilty. Try to undo that one!
In many ways, it was almost a blessing of expedience to have a stubborn compliant child versus an in-your-face overt defiant one, but not so for that covert child. As a result our covert son successfully flew under the radar, well beyond the training years (sure he was trained for regular infractions) but did we ever go to the mat with him and insist on“clear eyes?” I don’t think so. As a result we can look back over the past twenty something years and see holes in our parenting. Parenting in this season, our role now is to pray. Pray for a teachable heart, pray for the right mate to help him mature. I often ponder the fact that even though we had many excellent parenting tools in our“parenting tool belt,” the reality of accepting partial obedience rather than full compliance has resulted in some areas of his adult experience being more difficult. Granted, he is old enough to make wiser choices, but what pattern did we allow to form that could have at least been minimized?
So what has wisdom and the years taught me? And what would I now do differently or encourage you as the reader if I were in your home, watching the dynamic differences between two of your children?
Next month’s Chronicles will answer those very questions! So stay tuned!